Is phage therapy covered by my insurance?
It depends on your insurance company. Many insurance companies -- if the costs of treatment are lower than those via traditional medical services -- will reimburse most or all costs associated with treatment, including air fare and lodging. Patients may be able to submit claims to their insurance companies for non-phage related treatments and medical costs. The phage preparations, which are not approved in many countries, are only one element of your treatment -- which involves standard medical procedures that are normally covered by most insurance companies. Check with the "utilization review" organization (or equivalent) at your insurance company: ask what is covered if you are treated "off shore". Be sure to include in your inquiry the costs for travel and lodging.
Let the Phage Therapy Center the staff know that you intend to submit an insurance claim and they will prepare the appropriate documentation for you when your treatment is completed.
Do you guarantee a successful treatment outcome?
No. While the clinic utilizes the state of the art for phage therapy, there remains a possibility that your infection will be resistant to phages and other medications utilized during therapy.
Why is a bacterial sample necessary?
Bacteriophages are "host specific", meaning they are "programmed" to infect and destroy a specific species or sometimes even a particular strain of bacteria. So, for example, if the patient has a Staphylococcus infection, then a Staphylococcus phage must be used to treat it; if there is an E.coli infection, an E.coli phage is required for treatment. Phages will kill bacteria completely, but only if they are matched well. Using a laboratory process called the "phage sensitivty test", Phage Therapy Center determines if your infection is sensitive to (in other words, "can be treated with") the standard production phage preparations. If the sensitivity test shows that your infection is resistant to the phages, then it is necessary to locate, via a laboratory research process, matching phages. This matching process is called autophage (see description of autophage below).
What if I can't get a bacterial sample?
In some countries, getting a bacterial sample is extremely difficult or impossible, due to the regional health care laws and regulations. Do not let this prevent you from traveling to Georgia and becoming our patient. Your bacterial cultures can be taken upon your arrival at the clinic. If you come to our clinic without having first sent bacterial sample, you should be prepared to extend your stay at the clinic up to a week or more, depending on whether or not the bacteria causing your infection are sensitive to the standard production phage preparations. If the bacteria are resistant to these standard phage preparations, then a custom preparation will need to be developed. Refer to "What is an autophage", below, for more information.
What does the $200 (for the first sample) and $100 (for each additional sample) that accompanies my bacterial samples, questionnaire(s), and medical history cover?
- A laboratory analysis to determine if the infection is sensitive to the standard production bacteriophage preparations produced by our suppliers. Please note: the lab will not accept the bacterial sample for microbiological investigation until payment is received.
- An examination of your medical history by a qualified group of physicians and specialists. This examination will result in an assessment / diagnosis.
- An estimate of treatment costs.
Unless otherwise indicated, patients must provide both a bacterial sample and a medical history before an assessment and cost estimate can be provided. The more detail provided by the patient during the initial registration and in subsequent correspondence, the more quickly and effectively the medical staff can determine if phage therapy is or is not a good option for you.
How much does phage therapy cost?
The following is an estimate; costs may differ in your case, depending on the complexity of your condition:
- Out-patient care: $3,000.00 - $5,000.00
Phage Therapy is the therapeutic application of bacteriophage preparations by a trained physician. The above price approximations include the cost of the bacteriophage preparations.
Patients are responsible for all associated costs for additional medical services, specialists, laboratory tests, medications, surgeries, and hospitalization. Upon completion of the initial diagnosis or assessment, Phage Therapy Center will provide an estimate of treatment costs.
For situations where the patient's infection is resistant to standard production phage preparations: at the request of the patient, the laboratory will attempt to develop an "autophage" (see definition below). This is at additional cost to the patient. The cost is dependent on how long it takes the laboratory to create the custom phage preparation. The patient must pre-approve such laboratory research. Patients are notified if the infection is resistant immediately upon receiving the results of the initial laboratory test.
How do I pay for medications, lab testing and treatment?
Patients should send the designated deposit prior to arriving at the clinic for treatment. Please see the section of our web site regarding Payment Instructions (login is required). In general you can pay with cash, check, money order, wire transfer or credit card.
Who pays for travel and lodging?
Patients are responsible for their own travel and lodging; Phage Therapy Center staff will assist in making travel and lodging arrangements if requested.
Do I need a visa to enter Georgia?
Citizens of the European Union, the United States, Japan, Canada, Israel, Switzerland and Norway may enter Georgia for up to 90 days without a visa. If you are not a citizen of one of the above-mentioned nations, please see the consular info page of Georgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (http://www.mfa.gov.ge/index.php?lang_id=ENG&sec_id=96) to determine if you require a visa.
How prevalent are Staphylococcus aureus infections, and what is the average cost of conventional antibiotic treatment in the United States?
In the United States, an estimated 300,000 patients contract nosocomial (hospital acquired) Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) infections each year resulting in approximately 12,000 deaths. S. aureus also requires significant treatment and hospitalization cost versus other infections, exceeding $48,000 per patient on average.
Until recently, MRSA was seen almost exclusively in hospitalized patients. It is now being seen in the community, especially in pockets such as groups of athletes, children in childcare settings, and crowding situations such as prisons and jails.
What is an autophage?
Bacteriophages are very specific to which species, and in many cases which strain, of bacteria that they will infect and destroy. The purpose of the initial laboratory test of a patient's bacterial sample is to determine if the bacteria are sensitive to the standard production phage preparations that are produced by our suppliers. If the bacteria are resistant to the phage preparations, then the production preparation will not be effective for treating the infection. The laboratory will, at the request of the patient, conduct a series of additional research, examining and testing with other phages in their collection, to determine if it is possible to develop a custom phage preparation for the patient's infection. Usually it is possible to develop an autophage, but there is no guarantee. This process is at additional cost, due to the labor involved.
What infections / conditions are not treatable with phage therapy?
There are a number of pathogens for which there are currently no therapeutic phage preparations available; the list includes:
- Mycobacterium (all species, including tuberculosis)
- Borrelia burgdorferi (Lyme Disease) and coinfections (Babesia, Bartonella, Ehrlichia, Mycoplasma, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Anaplasma, and Tularemia)
In the case of Chronic Lyme Disease, in many cases there can be a false positive for these species, with other treatable bacteria causing the symptoms.
If you have questions about what pathogens or medical conditions can be treated by Phage Therapy Center, please send an inquiry to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Can I treat myself at home?
Yes, for some conditions. For other situations there is a low probability of a good outcome. For example, intestinal infections and lung infections are usually treatable at home with good results. On the other hand, infections like chronic sinisitis, chronic UTI and chronic prostatitis usually require treatment by an expert physician. Obviously you'd never try to treat an infection that requires surgery, for example chronic wounds or osteomyelitis. Even with lung infections there can be situations where travel to our clinic is advisable, particularly where there is reduced lung capacity. It all depends on your unique situation and state of health.
We recognize the fact that some patients cannot travel and we will do our best to help, including shipping phages to you for use at home, where legal and at your own risk.
For patients in the United States: because Phage Therapy Center treats infections and thereby there is an implicit medical claim FDA prohibits import of products shipped by us to our patients. We may be able to help you identify organizations that market phage products in the United States but without implied medical or veterinary use. Unfortunately these companies can not provide any custom phage preparations. It is otherwise necessary to travel to Georgia to acquire the phage preparations. Contact us for more information.